A diet high in various fermented foods has been shown to provide a huge number of important health benefits from improved digestion to a stronger immune system. The bacteria inside your intestines are important for digestion and overall health, but your diet, illness, and antibiotics can kill off many of the beneficial bacteria and upset this delicate balance. The easiest way to prevent and overcome these issues is to introduce more fermented or probiotic foods into your diet. Here is how you can go about making fermented foods at home.
Thinking Through the Process
Sauerkraut, kimchi, and other fermented foods are made using a process known as Lacto-fermentation. The process takes its name from the Lactobacillus bacteria that naturally occur on fruits and vegetables. When combined with brine, the bacteria reacts to produce lactic acid that will eventually preserve the fruit or vegetable. The process is done in a way to allow beneficial bacteria to form while stopping any harmful bacteria from contaminating the food.
Starting the Fermentation
To start the fermentation process, you’ll need to take whatever food you plan to ferment and place it in a container with a water-salt brine and whatever spices you wish to use. Once your food is in the jar, cover it up fully with brine, place a heavy weight on top and then seal the lid.
The container will need to be sealed airtight to prevent oxygen and harmful bacteria from contaminating the food or allowing mold to grow. For this reason, it is easiest to do your fermenting inside a wide-mouth mason jar. You also need to make sure that whatever you are using for weight is non-reactive. This is exactly why products like Fermentools uses glass weights as they won’t react with certain foods as some metallic weights will. If you’re not sure on the products you have lying around the kitchen, consider searching for containers that are custom made for the fermentation process.
The weight is an important part of the fermentation process as it ensures that the food remains fully submerged in the brine. The fermentation process will only work in the absence of oxygen, and anything that is exposed to oxygen can allow harmful bacteria to form and the food to rot instead of fermenting.
After 24 to 48 hours, you will start to notice bubbles forming inside the jar. At this point, gently press down on the weight to release any carbon dioxide trapped inside the brine. This will help to ensure that the food stays in full contact with the brine to prevent oxygen contamination.
Awaiting the Finished Product
Although the food will begin to ferment almost immediately, it usually takes around six to 10 days for the acidity to drop low enough for the Lactobacillus to start colonizing the jar. You’ll be able to tell when this happens as the amount of gas being released will suddenly diminish. At this point, the fermentation process is technically done and your food is ready to eat. That being said, it still won’t have the same depth of flavor as it will eventually develop if you let the jar sit inside your fridge for another few weeks.
Creating your own fermented foods at home is both fun and much easier than you might think. Best of all, it allows you to save money on probiotic supplements while experimenting to see what types of fermented foods you like best.